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Topper’s Strategy: Sayyed Riyaj Ahemad AIR 261 UPSC CSE-2018


Topper’s Strategy

Sayyed Riyaj Ahemad

AIR 261 UPSC CSE-2018

Sayyed Riyaj Ahemad AIR 261 IAS


On 5th April at 7.05 pm” divine pdf” came on whatsApp group and I searched my name, luckily this year my name appeared in the list. Long journey of 5 years came to an end and suddenly whole life took different turn. When I saw my name in this pdf, I just screamed loudly and my whole batch (I am getting training for Range Forest Officer in Uttarakhand) came in my room to congratulate me.  When I called my mother and father to tell them about result, I was speechless at that moment. U can’t digest success after 5 years in a minute, it require lots of time initially to believe that you got the thing for which you have been waiting for 5 long years.

Brief Introduction about me:-

Myself Sayyed Riyaj Ahemad AIR 261 from Nasik Maharashtra. I have completed my post graduation in Organic Chemistry from University of Pune. My dad is an ex PSU employee and mom is a home maker. I was failed in mathematics subject in the 12th examination and still I could clear UPSC exam which is supposed to be one of the toughest examination in India.

Why Civil Services??

       In 2013, I was elected as a general secretary (GS) of my college. It helped me a lot to develop my leadership quality. So after my M.Sc I decided to use my leadership skills for the benefit of society. I had two options- politics and administration. As I don’t have any kind of political background so I decided to join administration. And the journey began….

5 long years:-

      I started my preparation in 2014. In 2014 and 2015 I could not qualify prelims. In 2016, I qualified prelims and mains but could not make in the final list. In 2017, I failed to get interview call by just 2 marks (I got 807 and cut-off was 809 for General category). And finally in 2018, I got selected. There were many ups and downs during this journey but my family, G.R.Kalal sir and friends (especially Rena and Inabat) stood behind me and always motivated me to start afresh. They all have major role in my success.

Group study:-

     Group study helps you a lot in this preparation. We made a group of 4 serious candidates in 2016 and it paid us nicely. We all 4 got selected through UPSC examination and now serving in different services. We used to make notes of 100-120 issues by dividing it into 4. So it took very less time to cover whole current issue. Then we used to discuss various topics and prelims question in the free time. It was a proper utilization of time. We checked each other’s knowledge by asking difficult question, so UPSC questions felt easier. This group study helped us immensely during mains examination (mains strategy will be discussed separately)



      In 2014, it was my first UPSC attempt after just 4 month preparation. I performed very badly. Then I got admission in Jamia Milia Islamia University for UPSC coaching in 2015. Here I came to know standard book list and proper approach about preparation. But in 2015 I could not clear prelims. . I was very disappointed. I attempted 93 questions in this attempt. Due to wrong answers and negative marking I failed by only 1 mark.

My family members told me to come back to Nasik and do preparation here. But it was my dad and sister who stood behind me like a rock and always supported me in my preparation. They always motivated me after my failure. In 2016, I changed my prelims strategy completely. In 2016, I solved near about 70-75 question papers and adopted 1-2-3 strategy for prelims.

1-2-3 strategy: – Out of 100 question, there are multiple question where you know answer very well and you are very confident that this is the right answer. Mark them as 1 and fill the correct option in the OMR sheet.

There are some questions where you have some knowledge about the topic but don’t know the exact answer. Mark those 2 and leave them.

There are few questions where you know nothing about question. I called them alien question. I never attempted this question, as there is high probability of getting negative marks.

After reaching 100, come back to question with mark 2 and try to solve them. Elimination is a best way to find answers for this type of questions.

Due to this 1-2-3 strategy, I solved fewer questions as compared to earlier attempt and it paid me. I cleared prelims in my 3rd attempt in the year 2016. It was my first success in UPSC. I cleared prelims in 2017 and 2018 also by using the same strategy.

Sayyed Riyaj Ahemad AIR 261 IASBooklist:-

I am not going to provide an exhaustive book list; one can get it easily from internet.  But I want to include some value addition here.

There is vast information available on internet. So, nowadays it has become important to know what not to read. Don’t waste your time on reading 2-3 current affair magazines. Just read one standard current affair magazine.

For various information, use government websites like-

  1. A) PIB
  2. B) Ministry of environment affairs portal
  3. C) Year end review of various ministries on PIB
  4. D) IDSA etc

Use websites of international organisations like,

  1. A) World bank-specially for environment funds
  2. B) IUCN
  3. C) UNEP
  4. D) FAO etc

Make Small notes of various reports and indices. There are major 25 reports and indices published by various organisations. Just make small notes of them and compile them.

Focus should be on subjects like polity, History, Geography (includes environment) and economics. Because more than 65% questions are asked from this subjects and one can easily qualify prelims by thoroughly preparing this topics.


Last word:-

      UPSC examination preparation teaches you the real values of life. So try to inculcate those values in your life, it will help you immensely during your journey. Don’t try to mug up things, try to improve your conceptual clarity, because nowadays UPSC exams are becoming more analytical. Focus should be on revising books repeatedly so that, prelims does not become hurdle in your journey. Consistency, hard work and perseverance are the keywords during this journey.